Reaching Latinos: Become self-aware of how corporate cultures are and are not attractive to Latino talent

 

By Andrés T. Tapia –

(This article was originally published on my LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/18562142)

In the last post, we started talking about the second of three strategies corporations can use to seize the opportunities offered by the growing Latin talent pools. In this post we’ll cover two more points that support this strategy. If you missed any of the previous posts in this series, click here.

How cultural assumptions get embedded in talent systems

So what is actually happening in today’s businesses? Let’s look at just one current talent management philosophy commonly adopted among highly successful and knowledgeable human resources professionals that may inadvertently have an exclusionary impact on Latino talent: “Everyone owns their career progression.”

This talent development philosophy gets operationalized through mechanisms such as career maps, online universities with “developmental maps” that employees can read, follow, and fill out as they chart their own course. Then there are conversations for them to initiate: How did I do? How will I be rewarded? What do I need to do next? It all then gets codified in the performance and development review.

This has worked quite well for many and this is not inherently a bad or good thing. It’s actually a good thing—if your workforce is homogeneously reflective of this particular worldview.

But too many have been left behind through this approach, which via unconscious bias gets codified right into the talent system and for different cultural preference reasons. Latinos are among the groups that are negatively affected disproportionately by this approach. The problem emerges with a lack of awareness of the cultural bias in this seemingly “fair” approach to development and advancement. It is premised on an individualistic, internal control, sequential, task-oriented worldview.

Latinos face additional differences with corporate America’s (European-American) archetypical worldview. When choosing between employers, many Latinos prefer companies that show cultural competency and sensitivity toward people like themselves. They value opportunities to network, grow professionally, give back to the community, and achieve work life balance. Interculturalist, Brenda Machado Koller, describes a Latino sensitive workplace as one that promotes “familia and simpatía,” one that is family-like and warm and friendly. Such an environment can be leveraged to promote greater loyalty, trust, and engagement.

With such disparate views of how to get things done, it should come as no surprise that Latinos have made very few inroads into leadership positions in corporate America.

Navigating a new worldview

When companies wake up to these differences and obstacles in their current efforts to attract Latinos, it can quickly become an exercise in futility. Conversely, organizations with the courage to truly assess where culture change is necessary and then make the changes will be well-positioned to win the Talent War by attracting their unfair greater share of Latino talent.

Yet, even as I plant a cultural flag of difference for the sake of Latino identity where corporate America needs our differences, I also plant another flag regarding European American and other cultures within the corporation: we need theirs.

With this stance, those of us who share archetypical Latino worldview also need to choose to learn the skills and ways of a linear, sequential, task-oriented, European-American-dominant culture—not only to better understand, and by that get along better, but also to add more tools to our professional toolkits.

I can thank both my Latino worldview and the exposure I’ve had to the European-American worldview through colleagues, with their individualistic task-oriented, internal-control approaches. As I adapted it has made me a better and more effective professional because I have diversified my skills toolkit.

Conversely, many colleagues have told me that they have come to more greatly value the times when a more improvisational, communal, and holistic approach has led to different and, at times, better results than had we followed the directives of a more structured worldview.

But note the phrase “adapted to it.” The line in the sand for many multicultural Latinos is right here. One can adapt without losing one’s cultural identity. “Assimilation,” on the other hand, is where the loss happens—which is to give up those things that have made us unique, to bury them alive, and to only operate within the confines, rules, and expectations of the majority culture we are in.

But what has to stop is the expectation that the full responsibility of adaption is on Latinos. We must have reciprocal adaptation or else, game over.

What Does the Latino Boom Mean for Business?

by Andrés T. Tapia –

(This article was originally published on my LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/18562142)

In my last post, I shared a teaser with some head turning statistics oniStock_4746494XSmall.HispBusTeam Latinos that I was launching in this series. So let’s get started.

Consider this. The United States continues to be in the midst of a Latino population explosion. In the first decade of the 21st century, Latinos grew at three times the growth rate of the rest of the population—becoming the largest ethnic minority group. This has accounted for half of the overall United States population growth. At this rate, it is estimated that one in four U.S. nationals will be Latinos by 2025 and one-third by 2050. By 2060, the U.S. Hispanic population is estimated to reach 128.8 million.

So, what does this mean for businesses? There’s a largely untapped pool of talent available, who can bring ideas, connections, and information that will help to grow the Latino market as well your business. To seize the many opportunities offered by the growing Latino talent pools, corporations must heed three key principles:

  1. Understand the multidimensional diversity within the Latino community.
  2. Become self-aware of how corporate cultures are and are not attractive to Latino talent.
  3. Marry marketing psychographics to multidimensional demographics.

In this blog series, I will explore each of these principles with facts, strategies, and practical tactics. I invite you to comment along the way.

The Latino Talent Boom and How Not to Miss Out

By Andrés T. Tapia –medicalhomearticle.LatFamily-300x208

(This article was originally published on my LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/18562142)

Latinopalooza is a multi-stage, multi-ethnic, multi-age phenomenon that is already having great impact in the marketplace, political landscapes, and talent.

Organizations that don’t anticipate the implications of #Latinpalooza will miss out in many ways. Here are some facts you need to know:

  • Latinos are projected to be one-third of the U.S. population by 2050 with Latinos today already accounting for 21 percent of the Millennial number. This is not a niche market; it is the market.
  • Twenty-five million eligible Latino voters nationwide and over six million in places like California. This is not a side constituency; it is the margin of victory.
  • Sixty-nine percent of Latinos are currently going to college, the largest percentage of any ethnic group including whites. This is not just a student body ratio; it is the future workforce.

In this series of posts, #Latinopalooza, we will share strategies corporations can start doing now to capitalize on as Latinos become one of the biggest societal and talent stories in 2016.

Ya! The Time Has Come for Latinos to Claim Our Place in American Society

by Andrés T. Tapia

(This article was originally published on LatinPost.com http://www.latinpost.com/articles/21389/20140915/ya-time-come-latinos-claim-place-american-society.htm)

U.S. Capitol Dome

U.S. Capitol Dome

It’s up to us to have our power match our numbers

Power-cito, my Spanglish word for power-with-a-lowercase-p, is the Achilles heel of the surging Latino narrative. Despite our supersized growth, we have too much evidence that our power in many areas of society does not match our numbers.

As we joyfully celebrate and share our Latino roots during this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s also challenge ourselves to step it up and make our presence known and felt. Because when it comes to executive and senior leadership positions, political representation, and a marketplace that knows and meets our needs, we are not yet fully accounted for.

In leadership, according to the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, among the 1,200 executive and director positions available in its 2009 Corporate Inclusion Index, Hispanics held only 61 of those positions. That’s 7.9 percent. In 2013, it went down to 7.3 percent. Additionally, only 18 percent of Latinos work in management, professional, or similarly related positions.

Politically, we Latinos do not vote in numbers that the size of our population would suggest. In Arizona, for example, Latinos make up about 31 percent of the state’s population. Two-thirds (67 percent) of this population is native born, with a median age of 25 and a 57 percent home-ownership rate. These are the indicators of a potentially influential, voting-eligible population. Yet, many Latinos believe recent Arizona immigration legislation is detrimental to their community.

In the marketplace, there are still too few choices for products and services that cater to the needs, wants, and aspirations of the broad diversity within the Latino community — from the Spanish-dominant first generation Latino immigrant to the fourth generation Spanglish professional to the affluent MBA on the executive track.

The headwinds are both external as well as within ourselves. We must be vigilant about any discrimination and rally our allies in squelching it. A 2013 Harris Interactive poll found that over 75 percent of Latinos feel people with their background are discriminated against in the form of not being hired or promoted for a job and being called names or insulted.

But we ourselves also get in our own way as we seek to rise to the top. For example, many of the highly energized Latino advocacy organizations have a reputation for not being collaborative, and instead being highly competitive with one another. National origins and territoriality get in the way. A zero-sum game mindset feeds this.

We therefore have a splintering of advocacy groups — many doing insightful, passionate, committed work, but not in a coordinated, scalable way. But this splintering is what contributes to Latinos not displaying strength commensurate with our numbers.

It’s Up To Us

But it’s time we stop looking to others to hand us the power. We need to, and can, rise up to meet it. For us as individuals, it depends on our own ability and willingness to speak up for ourselves and being able to take the more calculated risks required of leaders. And collectively it’s about finding ways to minimize the differences within our own Latino ranks and being able to leverage the many things we have in common to advocate more effectively for what we need and want.

Here’s what we can stand on. Fifty-five million Latinos, and growing, are out there shopping, traveling, banking, studying, and raising families. The Latino purchasing power of $1.4 trillion in 2014, the fastest growing in the United States, is greater than the economies of 11 nations, including Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, and Indonesia.

And as companies struggle with growth, Latinos offer a marketer’s dream target audience — young, growing, and underserved. With one-third under the age of 18 and 25 percent in their 20s and 30s, the majority of Latinos are near the peak of their spending years.

As we become homeowners, we are driving growth in the household goods industry at a time when other groups are cutting back on these purchases. The familia focus leads to purchasing for the here and now. Latinos over-index compared to other groups in the purchase of toys, BBQ grills, furniture, and eating out. This is consumerism driven by a worldview of many Latinos that what matters most is hoy (today), for who knows what mañana (tomorrow) will bring.

Even with the high unemployment tied to the Great Recession, Latinos account for 13 percent of the workforce and have a participation rate of roughly 68 percent. This is a higher workforce participation rate than among whites, African-Americans or Asians. From a numbers perspective, companies unsuccessful at sourcing, attracting, and engaging this talent pool will see their talent pipeline shrivel up.

Hispanics are tasting the fruits of entrepreneurship as well. According to a 2013 Geoscape study, Hispanic-owned business have grown to over 3 million, a 40 percent increase between 2007 and 2013, outpacing the growth rate for any other demographic group. They generated over $468 billion in revenues.

In addition, Latinos made a key difference in how the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections went. And with now both major parties deeply disappointing Latinos in one way or another, we are in a position to be more demanding about what it will take to win our votes.

So here we are. According to Pew Hispanic Research, Latinos are twenty-one percent of the millennial population. This is the precursor to all Latinos expected to be one-third of the U.S. by 2050. Latino is not a niche market; it is the market. Twenty-five million eligible voters nationwide, and over 6 million in places like California is not a side constituency, it is the margin of victory. Sixty-nine percent of Latinos going to college, the largest percentage of any ethnic group including whites, is not just a student body ratio, it is the future workforce.

We have the numbers behind us, as well as our optimism, our energy, and our ambitions. But we have to stop waiting for others to make the way for us. Se hace el camino al andar, you make your path as you walk it. Let’s stop playing it safe and instead take the necessary steps to be seen as the future power brokers of how things are going to be.

We have a the rest of this month to reflect on this. From there, time to take action.

Muslims are in the Workforce, but Some Companies are Being Proactive When it Comes to Inclusion.


by Andrés T. Tapia
— muslim woman with her daughter lying

(This article was originally published in Talent Management Magazine.)

While extremist Islam gets all the press, an extraordinary number of ordinary Muslims are going about their lives around the world. They are in every blue-collar and white-collar industry, with jobs ranging from entry level to the executive suite. They are religious or secular, and they are growing in number nearly everywhere.

As of 2010, Muslims were 1.6 billion, or 23 percent, of the world’s population. In contrast, there are 2.2 billion Christians (32 percent), 1 billion Hindus (15 percent), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7 percent) and 14 million Jews (0.2 percent). According to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, the world’s Muslim population is expected to increase by about 35 percent to 2.2 billion by 2030. Europe is expected to be 20 percent Muslim by 2050, and the United States is projected to have a larger number of Muslims by 2030 than any European country other than Russia and France. The growth is fueled by higher birthrates as well as religious conversion. But most workplaces — even those known for having inclusive cultures — are not ready for Muslims’ presence.

A global financial institution I worked with, whose credit cards are ubiquitous around the world, was caught off guard when it discovered a group of Muslim employees had been gathering underneath a stairwell to conduct their daily prayers in its U.S. global headquarters. Human resources got them a prayer room.

A global management consulting firm had to address complaints from western employees that someone was doing feet washing in the bathroom sink. They addressed it by installing a stall with a hand-held showerhead. A Muslim woman in one of my audiences called me to task because in every photo in my Power-Point that included Muslim women, they all had head coverings. This depicted a narrow range of Muslim cultural expression.

Andres- Regional D. of Muslims

Corporations aren’t ready largely because wider society has not yet accepted this greater Muslim presence. In 2012, France forbade hijabs, the head covering many devout Muslim women wear in public. In 2013, Switzerland forbade construction of new minarets. Also in 2013, a Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding survey showed 60 percent of U.S. Muslims said they faced prejudice from most Americans. The U.S. government has had to be vigilant during the Bush and Obama administrations about hate crimes against Muslims.

But a growing number of companies are proactively being inclusive of Muslims. For example, at American Airlines, the Muslim employee resource group addressed both workplace and marketplace needs by helping get prayer rooms for Muslim passengers at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport; the group also recommends vendors to provide halal meals on flights, and provides training for flight attendants on Muslim practices. When I led diversity at Hewitt, a group of Muslim employees suggested an infoshare where those from different faiths — Islam, Judaism and Christianity — could share with each other about Eid, Hanukkah and Christmas.

But being Muslim is not just about religious identity. It’s also cultural. Individuals choose what being Muslim means for them. Recently, after an all-day executive session with a client in Zurich, as we were walking the cobblestone streets in the center of town, I came across a sidewalk billboard announcing pisco sours from my native land, Peru. I met the host: a Muslim bar owner serving Peruvian cocktails in Zurich, which he discovered on a trek to the Andes.

Muslims have many faces.

Connecting Diversity to Space Design: Take Five with Gensler’s Tom Mulhern

by Andrés T. Tapia —

Tom Mulhern (left) works with a client, Mr. Davidson (right) of the CHA.

Tom Mulhern (left) works with a client, Robert Davidson (right) of the Lathrop Homes Local Area Council.

Tom Mulhern works at the intersection of people, space, and technology. As Strategic Planner for Gensler, he consults with clients and design teams to identify and create contexts for great design. As he has consulted with several companies about the accessibility and sustainability of their workplaces, unexpected synergies have come into play. The challenges and opportunities that the workplace presents Tom, as a space designer, raise issues of diversity and inclusion. After we had the pleasure of working together, Tom agreed to discuss his insights about workplaces in this Take Five interview.

Take 1: Educate us about your world – the transformation of the workplace. How would you characterize the differences between what it was a generation ago and what it is becoming today?

Today for most organizations that employ knowledge workers – in the US and worldwide – the workplace, as a distinct, physical location, has become optional. What was once the only way to organize complex work and workers is now something organizations and leaders can choose (or not) depending on what they want to achieve. The technology to do this has arrived, in the form of “The Cloud” and the always-connected mobile device. And the workers themselves, at school and at home, have spent the past 15 years rehearsing the multi-tasking, time-shifting, results-seeking required to make a flexible workplace work. Add to this the “new normal” of a cost- and resource-constrained global economy, and we find that almost every Gensler client is seeking to implement virtual and flexible office strategies. 

But optional is not the same as obsolete. Just think of how often we still use paper and pen, postal mail or your landline phone. So, if a dedicated, permanent physical workspace is no longer a necessity, why might organizations choose it – at least for some processes, at least some of the time?

Some reasons to be present physically include,

  • Mentor and learn from others
  • Really get to know colleagues and be known by them
  • Connect to and be inspired by organizational mission, vision and values
  • Make serendipitous connections to people and ideas (“water cooler”)
  • Convey seriousness, scale and professionalism to customers
  • Get access to scarce resources – production equipment, labs, etc.

There are also compelling reasons to work from wherever,

  • Integrate work more effectively into life (good for individual, recruiting tool for organization)
  • Support the global work day (up in the morning with Europe, late to bed with Asia)
  • Preserve organizational security – distribute operations to reduce risk from disaster or terror
  • Save costs and carbon associated with real estate (organization)
  • Save time, expense and carbon of commuting (individual)
  • Learn to use the communication technologies required for successful innovation (individual and organization)

So the idea is not to minimize real estate, but rather to maximize presence. When people are physically present, are they doing the things in the first list? Is the physical environment optimized for the goals? If your organization is still defaulting to the physical workplace, are you aware of the potential embedded in the second list?

Take 2: Changing demographics and lifestyles have driven many of these workplace differences. Can you elaborate on the connection between changing demographic groups/ lifestyle needs and space design changes?

The drivers are more psychographic than demographic. They are largely keyed to life stages and lifestyles, not particular generational tendencies. For instance, the generation most prepared to work this way – the fabled Millennials – is not necessarily the one best served by flexible work arrangements. Millennials entering the workforce need connection to organizations, mentors, and inspiration. They are most prepared to thrive in a social, embodied physical workplace. By contrast, flexible work arrangements are more appropriate to mid-career workers with family or civic commitments, and to later-career workers who are seeking to reduce, but not eliminate, the role their professional identity plays in their lives. The two biggest conceptual victims of the Optional Office may be the “Mommy Track” and “Retirement.” Both of these notions are grounded in a time when physical presence was an all-or-nothing proposition.

Take 3: I’ve shared with you and members of your firm how much U.S. corporate firms are influenced by a white, Anglo-Saxon, individualistic aesthetic, and how it runs counter to a Latin, Catholic, communal aesthetic. As you think of the future of corporate space, and we think of Latinos becoming ¼ of U.S. population, how will this affect how we think about design?

I would expect to see a massive “Southern” influence in design over the next 20 years. Latin America, India, and Africa will continue to gain in cultural influence on the rest of the world, bringing color, comfort, and community to the workplace and to all aspects of our lives. All of this will be muted some by the overwhelming capital that has been put in place behind very conventional, international (read European) style design in countless buildings being thrown up across China and Latin America itself. But to move beyond aesthetics, I believe the most powerful influence from non-European cultures will be functional. Communal, flowing arrangements of space, such as the Plaza, the Pueblo and the Mercado, will be very important patterns for the organization of Flex organizations. The European arrangement of task – from monk’s carrels to cubicles – will be less and less well suited to the interconnections and complexity that are required to innovate and thrive in our world.

Take 4: Gensler has done significant work looking at the correlation between workplace design and employee productivity and engagement. Can you elaborate on what those connections are?

The first, and maybe most obvious connection, is that when an organization pays attention to the physical, emotional, and social design of the workplace, the organization is saying to its people, “You are valued people doing important work that is worth investing in.” This is sort of the old Western Electric effect, where any investment translates to good will. The second connection, for which there is growing evidence, but which does not work in a linear or mechanical way, is that work environments can be tuned to increase desired behaviors – say casual collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas – and to decrease non-desired behaviors – say hoarding of resources and knowledge. We have hard data that demonstrates conclusively the connection between a workplace’s physical design and its performance in terms of productivity, engagement, and retention. Top Performing companies have workplaces that score 20-40% higher on Gensler’s multi-variable measure, the Workplace Performance Index (WPI). The hard part is that this data is not universal. You have to make the right investments in space to get the returns. And the right investments vary according to the business goals you seek.

Take 5: The terms “diversity” and “inclusion” have not necessarily been part of your discourse through most of your career, but lately they have become an important part of your work. What does diversity and inclusion mean for you now professionally and personally?

Beyond ADA (Americans with Disability Act) requirements, diversity and inclusion have not been a significant topic in commercial architecture and design. This is changing. And the main reason it is changing is the Innovation Imperative. In a global economy, survival depends on innovative capacity. Organizations have to innovate and adapt extremely rapidly. And without internal sources of diversity – of background, worldview, or discipline – organizations can’t perform the most straightforward innovation trick: to think differently. The challenge for architecture and design is to create environments that go far beyond permitting diversity to actually activating diversity. Those environments will be ones in which no one ethnic group, gender or other group will have an in-built advantage. I am not sure what form these will take, but I’ve started referring to them as “out of the comfort zones.”

Brazil’s Economic Future Depends on Education and Diversity

by Andrés T. Tapia —


Brazil_kids-recifeSAO PAOLO – As the focus goes to the implications of  Dilma Rousseff’s election on Sunday, as I left Brazil a few days ago I thought about how much of its promising future depends not only on macro and microeconomics and globalization, but also on the education of its children.

With a growing economy, increasing political stability, and a renewed national sense of hope, Brazil now faces one of its most pressing challenges – educating its youth. A World Bank report concluded that unless the country addresses its current state of education, Brazil will likely fall behind other developing countries, threatening its plans to be a dominant player on the world’s economic stage.

The numbers are, indeed, troubling. Brazilian students score among the lowest on international tests for basic skills in reading, mathematics, and science. They trail other Latin American countries like Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay. Brazilian 15-year-olds tied for 49th out of 56 countries on the reading portion of the Program for International Student Assessment. And more than 50% scored in the bottom reading level of the test, performing even worse in math and science. And according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, Brazil has one of the highest high school drop out rates for students in its region.

Underneath these stats exists a yawning gap between more-affluent Brazilians and the country’s poor citizens. The educational achievement of students who are descendents of Indigenous people, Africans, or youngsters from poor rural areas is even worse than the national stats indicate.

To its credit, the Brazilian government has taken aggressive steps to address this situation, most notably the Bolsa Família initiative, a subsidy program that, among other things, requires school attendance. More poor students are in school and staying longer, as a result. And according to a New York Times article, education has become a burning issue for departing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who sees the issue as an important part of his legacy. But is it enough?

Let’s overlay the education statistics onto a peek at Brazil’s economic situation. The Brazilian GDP is more than $2 trillion and, according to Forbes Magazine, continues to grow thanks to new oil discoveries and its exportation of minerals and raw materials. The government is investing heavily in its IT sector and the national infrastructure. And yet, companies are facing the challenge of finding workers with enough basic skills to fill even manual labor jobs, exacerbating the country’s extreme gap between wealthy citizens and those in dire poverty.

All together – the need for skilled workers at all levels, a growing economy, and a struggling educational system – this situation represents a formula for future troubles. There simply won’t be enough adequately educated youth prepared to take their rightful places in the Brazilian workforce to sustain its national goals. And that’s the real threat all the crianças ( kids) I see on the streets of San Paulo represent.

This scenario cries for a diversity intervention – one that enables the entire Brazilian society, particularly its elite, to put as much effort in educating its marginalized and poorer citizens, not simply because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s an economic necessity. As I suggest in the Inclusion Paradox, it will take Brazilians understanding the differences within their country’s various ethnic and marginalized social groups, building on common cultural touchstones, and then, finding the Brazilian way to navigate those differences. A tall order, but one, I believe that Brazil which has shown the energy and political and social will to address its earlier challenges, can certainly accomplish.

Visible–and Invisible–Disability Lurks in Many Cubicles; Why We Must Normalize Disability

by Susan Welch, Hewitt Research —

disabilityicons

For some of us, a variety of conditions—concealed or not—make work a difficult proposition.

To get a true grasp on disability in America, look around you. In my case, for example, three of my adult friends have more than 70% hearing loss in one ear. Two have dyslexia; one has been with diagnosed ADHD. A handful struggle with obesity. One has an autoimmune disorder. None of these people have openly discussed the resulting workplace challenges with their employers.

Chances are you know people in similar circumstances. Possibly you are in such circumstances.

Disabilities, beyond “traditional” ones, abound. And yet, disability remains the diversity issue we fear most, as described in The Inclusion Paradox.

Unfortunately, fear will be an increasingly unproductive response to addressing disability in the workplace.

Roughly 13% of adults between the ages of 21 and 64 have a disability—and the number climbs to 41% of adults age 65 and over, according to the 2009 Disability Compendium. This includes individuals with sensory disabilities, physical disabilities, and mental disabilities. But these numbers are a starting point at best.

Aging alone increases the risk of disability (the numbers above show disability rates tripling for those 65 and older). The “equipment” gets older, and vision and hearing start to fade, as does mobility. As America turns gray, age-related disabilities increase. Illnesses such as strokes, heart attacks, or cancer contribute to disabilities. More insidious, Alzheimer’s and dementia are on the rise—and no workplace is immune to discovering aging staffers who increasingly forget and misplace things, as they slowly lose their edge. One in eight people over age 65 have Alzheimer’s, and some 200,000 people younger than 65 currently have the disease, per this report. One in five women and 14% of men who reach the age 55 are at risk for developing Alzheimer’s. How does one sensitively—and within legal bounds—address a coworker or employee suspected of having Alzheimer’s? What accommodations can be given, and for how long? How can employers help those workers keep their dignity and remain working for as long as is practical?

But the elderly do not hold exclusive domain over disabilities. Obesity is another red flag. One third of Americans are obese, per the American Medical Association. Consequently, they could more easily develop diabetes, arthritis, or other disabling conditions. Sensitivity is needed, and, as with Alzheimer’s, dignity must be preserved. Employers walk a difficult tightrope.

Not confined to the elderly or obese, arthritis is another disabler—in fact, it is the number one cause of disability in the United States. People with rheumatoid arthritis, for example, are more likely to use sick days, have a greater rate of work-related physical limitations, and have a higher unemployment rate due to their disability, according to this Health Central report. And that’s just one of the many forms of arthritis. In offering workplace advice to arthritis sufferers, About.com stresses the need for an employer-employee relationship that is “strong, communicative, respectful, and honest.” Without these conditions, arthritic employees may feel threatened and exposed when asking for workplace accommodations.

Younger, seemingly healthy workers bring along issues as well, although theirs are sometimes more hidden. Learning disabilities, for example, are on the rise. The same is true for autism and ADHD. Hearing loss in young adults is a growing concern.

Straightforward disabilities are difficult enough for employers. When facing declining mental stability or obesity, to name a few possibilities, the bar is raised. Pointing fingers, quietly cringing, or even simply trying to look the other way are counterproductive tactics. Seeking to understand is the best first step an employer can take.

Women: Have Come a Long Way, Yet Falling Behind While Getting Ahead

by Susan Welch, Hewitt Research —
switchboard operators2My daughter is 8 years old. I would love to give her—and my older son, who benefits as well—a world in which she is unquestionably equal, safe from being viewed/treated as an object, and valued for her real contributions to the world.

The data tells us we are getting closer. Throughout the world, girls are going to school in numbers nearly equal to those of boys. The wage gap in industrialized nations shrinks further, year by year. In the United States, women now outnumber men in terms of payroll, as seen here. Perhaps the best news: Men increasingly are okay with it all. According to a Pew Research report, more men are marrying women who are better educated and who earn more money.

But we still don’t have it right, do we?

Here’s the irony: Even when women get ahead, they fall behind.

The Social Price of Success

womanexecTake education, for example. At all levels, girl attendees are passing boys. In college, women have held a lead for a little while now—since 2007, 57 percent of U.S. college enrollees have been women. This academic gain comes at a social price. Women compete for dates and boyfriends, and when it comes to dating, men call the shots. As illustrated in this New York Times article a “hook up” culture, unsafe and unsatisfactory for women, has become prevalent on college campuses.

How many high-powered corporate women find themselves faced with a similar problem decades later in their lives? How many of them do not marry, or sacrifice their marriages for their careers? The single lives of the Supreme Court’s most recent appointees has generated speculation about women in senior roles in government. In her brilliant autobiography, Madeleine Albright speculates that perhaps she could not have become the first female Secretary of State had not her husband divorced her. How many other women have paid a painful price to claim positions of stature in their jobs?

That Stubborn Wage Gap

Generally speaking, although plenty of women are working, and the gap in wages is closing, it nonetheless still exists. Estimates vary, with a recent chart by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development setting the gap at 19 percent for the United States. The gap persists because of persistent challenges: among them, women are clustered in roles and industries that traditionally pay less. (Question: Do they pay less in and of themselves, or because the jobs are predominantly held by women?)

That’s the tip of the iceberg for working women in the United States. When women have children, roughly a third of them, per this Forbes article off-ramp, sometimes for more than two years, to care for their newborns. The two-year job loss, often at the beginning of a woman’s peak earning power, translates into reduced wages and responsibilities for the remainder of her career. Further, many who want to return to work (40%, according to Forbes) could not find full-time employment.

Flexibility Not Cure-All

For those that can find work, caring for children becomes the glaring issue. Employers increasingly offer flexible schedules, but truly sufficient work-life flexibility still can be difficult to come by.  Sure, the picture is changing. But as argued in this New York Times article, employers can view workers who also are caregivers as people who are, by definition, less committed to their jobs, and thus less deserving of promotions, pay increases, increased responsibilities. Asking for more flexibility might simply reinforce the stereotype.

Even when the flexibility is there, the child care may not be. When the economy flounders, working women—particularly single mothers—must hang on to both their jobs and their child care. But as this New York Times story illustrates, child care can be increasingly hard to come by. After all, isn’t this scenario the root of the feminization of poverty in America?

Indeed, when it comes to “having it all,” the equation can be made to work for financially successful women, but is burdensome for women who struggle economically. As this story illustrates, college-educated women are better positioned to attract men with good financial prospects. They might earn an income sufficient to let them outsource tasks such as house cleaning, lawn maintenance, and related work. They can afford high-quality child care. They are in a better position to take time off from their careers (even if that time does involve a relative financial penalty). Less educated women have few to none of these advantages.

Women’s Gain Equals Men’s Loss?

Even more troubling for women, from a bigger-picture standpoint, is that women’s economic gains historically have come at a cost to men. More women than men are working in the United States—but why? The article above points to a study showing women are more likely to be employed in countries where they traditionally earn less than men. And the reverse is true: They are less often employed in countries where their salaries are closer to that of men. Today in the United States, women are edging out men because they are cheaper. As already noted, they tend to be clustered in lower-paying roles and industries. When the economy rebounds, will men resoundingly reclaim their majority in the workforce?

Where does all this leave us? Are American women as close to workforce equality as they can expect to get? Is earning 80% of what a man makes, while still being able to have a home and family, good enough? Certainly it’s better than 60%. Perhaps women have done as much as they can by approaching the structural elements of the problem. Changing the structure of the working world has gotten us close. The underlying cultural and social change always has been harder.

So, much as I want to give my daughter a more equal world, I suspect it falls to her, and her generation, to get there. Millennials, and those behind them, seem to bring with them their own culture, a more tolerant, gender-, color-, and sexual-preference-blind point of view that might be just what we need.

UK Diversity: An Immigration Conundrum Brewing in the United Kingdom

Migrant workers continue to trouble citizens, governments, aging populations, aging workforces, and employers. They are seen as “scary” by many, often because they are visibly different, and thus represent change at its most basic level. When they are competing for jobs, the fear factor nudges higher.

Host countries around the world struggle with immigration challenges. Citizens often want government to take stronger action to restrict immigrants. Employers, meanwhile, struggle to fill positions with skilled workers. A poor economy and soaring unemployment further destabilize matters.

This struggle is coming to a head in the United Kingdom, where joblessness, illegal immigration, and a flood of immigrants from Eastern Europe have jarred citizens. But what does this mean when it comes to cultural diversity issues? One in 10 workers in the United Kingdom are foreign-born; among new entrants to the U.K. workforce almost seven out of 10 are foreign-born.

Unsurprisingly, the issue has become political. A trade union poll found that immigration angst is causing Labour party voters to turn away. Another poll conducted by the Balanced Migration group found that seven out of 10 adults in Great Britain want immigration cut by more than 80 percent.

Stepping into the fray, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a major speech on immigration—his first speech on the subject—in which he announced plans to reduce visas granted to foreign students and restrict the number of skilled workers from non-European Union countries. The United Kingdom already recently enacted restrictions on unskilled workers from outside the EU. Further, Brown called for reducing the types of jobs that can be opened to foreign-born workers if British workers cannot fill them. Expected to come off the list (and thus, be preserved for only British workers) are jobs in hospital consulting, civil engineering, and aircraft engineering, among others.

The inevitable frustration, from sending countries and from second- or third-generation immigrants, is bubbling to the surface, in newspapers in Asia and the Caribbean, the US. But employers, so far, have remained largely silent.

Perhaps no one—employers, citizens, or political leaders—has fully grasped the importance of the demographics faced by the United Kingdom. The country has been gripped with concern that the population is growing rapidly, due to immigration. In fact, according to the CIA World Fact Book, the U.K.’s population is shrinking. Its estimated 2009 growth rate is -0.28, ranking the country 175 out of 223 countries in the world for population growth.

True, the country ranks 42nd in terms of net migration—but that only makes the negative growth rate even more troubling: Even with immigration, the United Kingdom’s growth has slowed. Compounding this, the population is aging. Its estimated median age for 2009 is slightly over 40, putting the United Kingdom more on a par with Italy (median age is 43) or Japan (median age: 44) versus more vibrant countries such as India (median age: 25), Brazil (median age: 29), or even middle-of-the-road United States (median age: 37).

“British jobs for British workers” are what Brown has promised his Labour party followers. And such a policy may, indeed, bring Labour Party voters back into the fold. But what will it mean for the United Kingdom as Britons get older, and jobs go unfilled? What are your thoughts about the aging workforce?

Race and Jobs: People of Color Disproportionately Don’t Have Access to Good Jobs

EPIgoodjobsIn the midst of the lingering economic crisis, we should not just look at how many people are not working who want to, but we also need to look at the quality of the jobs. The Economic Policy Institute just released a study on how people of color fare in accessing good jobs. The answer is not pretty. Here’s their paper’s opening statement:

“The lack of “good” jobs is a serious problem for all Americans and an especially dire problem for America’s people of color. The current recession has highlighted overall job loss and the need for robust job creation; however, we must also look at the quality of those jobs. The United States has too few good jobs, and the share has been declining over time. A recovery that creates millions of low-wage, no-benefit jobs is not a real recovery at all.

“This Briefing Paper uses a minimal definition of a “good” job. It defines a good job as one that pays a wage that can support a family and that provides health care and retirement benefits. Using this minimal standard, the paper shows that Hispanics are less than half as likely as whites to have good jobs, and African Americans are about two-thirds as likely. When comparing workers of the same educational level, whites are also more likely to have good jobs than Asian Americans. The large share of college graduates among Asian Americans, however, hides their disadvantage when one examines the group as a whole. Generally, people of color have less access than whites to quality jobs.”

inclusionparadox.com